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Gas patterns on plain abdominal radiographs: a pictorial review
  1. Rachel E Musson1,
  2. Ian Bickle1,
  3. Ram K P Vijay2
  1. 1Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK
  2. 2Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr R E Musson, Department of Radiology, C Floor, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Glossop Rd, Sheffield S10 2JF, UK; rachel.musson{at}


Abdominal radiographs are one of the most commonly performed radiological examinations and have an established role in the assessment of the acute abdomen. The main indication is for suspected bowel obstruction and in conjunction with an erect chest x-ray for suspected visceral perforation. Often, the pattern of gas points to a particular pathology, and accurate interpretation is important for prompt diagnosis. The diagnosis in most cases will be confirmed by further imaging studies such as ultrasound, contrast studies or, most commonly in contemporary practice, CT. This pictorial review summarises the various types of intraluminal and extraluminal gas patterns, illustrates some of the common clinical diagnoses made from plain films, describes some commonly encountered clinical problems with radiographs, and discusses the role of advanced imaging techniques.

  • Abdominal radiograph
  • acute abdomen
  • gastrointestinal radiology
  • gas patterns, gastroenterology
  • diagnostic radiology
  • gastrointestinal imaging

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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